Tuesday, February 27, 2007
UC Skates on Fines -- Will LANS?
By ANDY LENDERMAN | The Santa Fe New Mexican, February 27, 2007
The University of California violated nuclear safety rules at Los Alamos National Laboratory 15 times in 2005, but the university won't pay for it.
As a nonprofit institution, the university is exempt from the fines covered by a federal law that regulates nuclear safety at the lab. The university managed the lab until June 1, 2006.
The university would have paid a record-breaking $1.1 million in fines had they not been exempt, which would have been the largest single penalty ever in the history of the Department of Energy's nuclear safety program.
Monday's announcement by the National Nuclear Security Administration centers on three events from 2005: a March incident where four workers received minor uptakes of radioactive material; a July incident where at least two people were contaminated with americium-241 and a contaminated package was accidentally sent across the country; and a November inspection performed by the department that revealed many problems in the lab's environment, health and safety programs.
Tom D'Agostino, the head of the administration, wrote lab Director Michael Anastasio earlier this month that future fines against the new lab manager, Los Alamos National Security LLC, will not be waived.
"My (expectation) is the prompt and aggressive completion of corrective actions focused at resolving underlying causes will be one of your highest priorities," D'Agostino wrote. "This expectation will serve as the standard to which I will hold you during future enforcement deliberations, should they become necessary."
University spokesman Chris Harrington said in a statement Monday that the university has taken a number of corrective actions to fix the problems outlined by the department. "The University of California takes safety and security issues very seriously as part of our commitment to managing the national laboratories," Harrington said.
The university is one of four partners in Los Alamos National Security LLC, which also includes the construction giant Bechtel.
Pete Stockton of the watchdog group Project on Government Oversight criticized the department for taking nearly two years to investigate and take action. "It's so far from the event," Stockton said. "And then of course there's no penalty."
The Department of Energy is authorized by the federal Price-Anderson Amendments Act of 1988 to regulate contract companies that break nuclear safety rules.
What Public Affairs Office?
They don't exist anymore.
Oh yeah, they're called the "Communications Office."
Of course, they never really existed anyway for all the good they did.
The point - The New Mexican can't figure out the 5 w's of reporting so who knows what the real safety issues might be.
I'd like to remind Congress of the fatal accident at Savannah River that happened near that time (the worker that got crushed trying to load a backhoe onto a trailer), and the myriad other near-fatal accidents at other DOE sites.
How much funding does DOE/NNSA allocate to LANL that gets down to the worker for safety? ZERO. What's the charge number for safety meetings, safety reviews, and what do we charge to buy much needed safety equipment? There is NO charge code. Workers have to charge for safety items out of programatic funding, funding already under severe duress under the weight of $175M of non-productive costs brought by LANS.
So we soldier on under the burden of increasing layers of inept management and await the next safety incident or security lapse. Events that could be prevented if instead of hiring LANS at the astounding annual cost of $175 million, some of that funding was actually allocated to solving problems.
Brilliant move to hire LANS, D'Agastino. Brilliant move, Bodman. What were you thinking?
This is yet another example of POGO's incompetence.
How much liability exposure does s/he think that UC would take on for the $7M management fee? Bell Labs was simlarly protected when it managed Sandia for $1 per year.
The new contract removes the indemnification. SO, all of the bidders (including LANS) set up limited liability corporations (LLCs). That way the parent corporations (Bechtel et al) can siphon off the profits but are shielded from all liability. The dumbasses at the DOE did not figure this out when they wrote the Request for Proposal.
You got me with THIS acronym: Is it a misspelling or a play on "farce"?"
Yup, perhaps "FARs" would have been better. FARs = Federal Acquisition Regulations.
...and indeed "farce" befits the situation.